Horse Racing

Champions Suite Opens For Foreign Punters At Seoul Racecourse

Seoul Racecourse has opened the “Champions Suite” a dedicated lounge for foreign punters on the fifth floor of the Luckyville Grandstand.

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The room had a “soft” opening last weekend but will open formally this Saturday July 18. The lounge is open to anyone in Korea with a foreign passport or Alien Registration Card (one Korean guest per person is permitted). Racecards are available in English, Japanese and Chinese and there is both a staffed and automated betting window in the lounge which is situated immediately below the main VIP room midway down the home-straight and has an excellent view of the racecourse as well as TVs on each table.

Until the end of September, all seats in all zones will be priced at 15,000 won per person per day. Tea, coffee and soft drinks are free of charge while beer and wine is for sale. Lunch may also be ordered in from the Owners’ Restaurant and like the rest of the course there is free high speed wi-fi avaialable. The lounge has a capacity of 38.

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Reservations may be made in advance – and there are still seats available for this Saturday’s official opening which will be attended by the Chairman of the KRA (email hrikorea@gmail.com or champions_suite@kra.co.kr to make a reservation) – or on the day at the Champions Suite. Any of the information desks at the racecourse will help with directions.

A day at the races just got a lot more comfortable!

Remembering Fausto Durso

The Korean racing community was one of several around the world to be saddened to learn of the death of jockey Fausto Durso in Brazil on Saturday.

Fausto Durso: 1974-2015

Fausto Durso: 1974-2015

Durso first came to Korea to ride in the Seoul International Jockey Challenge in August 2013, winning the feature race of the event, the YTN Cup, on Choichoro. He immediately applied for a short-term license, which was approved. He returned to Korea in October that year and rode five more winners during a three-month stay over the winter of 2013-2014.

Having turned professional aged 18 and ridden 700 winners in his native Brazil, Fausto Durso moved to Asia and competed in the 2013 Jockey Challenge as a representative of the Macau Jockey Club.

It was in that jurisdiction where he had his biggest successes, riding 600 winners and winning many of the biggest races as well as twice being crowned champion jockey. Durso also had stints in Dubai, Malaysia and most recently, in Mauritius.

Fausto Durso winning the YTN Cup at Seoul Racecourse in 2013 (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Fausto Durso winning the YTN Cup at Seoul Racecourse in 2013 (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Like many foreign riders who come to Seoul, Durso didn’t get as many opportunities as he would have liked but regularly made the most of what he had to work with, achieving a very high place percentage over his 165 rides.

Fausto Durso is remembered by those who knew him here as being friendly, hard-working and a very talented jockey.

According to local media reports, Durso died following an altercation outside his parents’ house in Senador Firmino. He was 40 years old. Thoughts are with his family and friends.

Se Young Storms Back At Seoul / Cinderella Man Steps Up At Busan

The fun’s over for the Seoul Jockey colony. There have been plenty of wins to go around so far this year but the main man was back this weekend. And Moon Se Young promptly asserted his dominance riding eight winners across the weekend.

And well he might smile. Moon Se Young was back and in-form this weekend (Pic: Hiromi Kobayashi)

And well he might smile. Moon Se Young was back and in-form this weekend (Pic: Hiromi Kobayashi)

Last year’s champion jockey picked up a 6-meeting ban during the final weekend of 2014 giving him a pleasant few weeks off on what should have been the coldest race-days of the winter. As it transpired, it wasn’t that cold but in his return to race riding this weekend, Moon was red-hot.

To the surprise of no-one, he was in the winner’s circle after his first ride back on Saturday and he would return there a further seven times across the weekend – two more on Saturday followed five on Sunday. He added three 2nd places and two 3rds and is remarkably already in 3rd place in the 2015 Jockey Championship. Park Tae Jong, racing’s “President”, will know its odds-on Moon Se Young will have overtaken him at the top by the end of next weekend.

At Busan, the performance of the day came from Cinderella Man. The Peter Wolsley trained 4-year-old made his class 1 debut in the feature handicap. Under Jo Sung Gon, he led home last year’s Derby winner Queen’s Blade and solid handicapper My Key for victory by just under three lengths.

Cinderella Man (Southern Image) now has seven wins from ten career starts and looks a force to be reckoned with. Aussie trainer Wolsley has built up another strong stable this year and already sits in third place in the Trainer Championship. Another promising one of his, the (poorly-spelled, in an orthographical rather than a having a rest on the farm way) Diferent Dimension (Into Mischief) was an easy winner on Friday.

Also on the foreign training front, Bart Rice saddled his first winner of the year on Friday, with his Aussie-bred filly Ace Sinhwa (Onemorenomore) scoring on her racing debut.

As for the foreign jockeys, both Ikuyasu Kurakane at Seoul and Joe Fujii at Busan were among the winners on Sunday.

Back at Seoul, the feature race of the weekend was won by Strong Road (A.P.Warrior) who, just like Cinderella Man at Busan stepped up to class 1 for the first time and duly registered his 7th win from 10 career starts so far.

Korea’s New Rating System Explained

It is the year of change for horse racing in Korea. The racing calendar has been revamped, foreign ownership of racehorses has been approved (see bottom of this article) and now a new rating system is coming in.

Yeonseung Daero - (Pic: KRA)

Yeonseung Daero usually ran against foreign opposition. In future he will be the rule, not the exception – (Pic: KRA)

Of all the changes, it is the rating system that has caused – and continues to cause – the most debate within Korean racing circles as what it means is that if Korean-bred horses are to win class 1 races, they will need to beat imported opposition. 

The KRA believes this will raise the quality of Korean horses. Local breeders and some owners disagree.

Under the new system, every horse will be assigned a rating from 0-140 to accurately reflect their current ability.  The rating will determine their eligibility for races and their handicap mark.

The ratings are for use in Korea only and are not intended to mirror what a horse’s international rating would be.

Over the past couple of months horses at Class 1 and Class 2 have already been receiving a monthly rating. This will now be rolled out to all classes.

The Current System

There are six classes in Korean racing (only five are used at Busan). Within each class, all races are further split into two categories:

Domestic: Races restricted to Korean-bred runners
Mixed/Foreign: Races open to both Korean and Foreign-bred runners.

Horses move up in class according to points earned for winning or placing in races and prize-money won. They can never return to a lower class, regardless of recent performance.

The New System

All horses will be assigned a rating which will determine which class they are eligible to run in. With the exception of some Stakes races, such as the Korean Derby, eligibility for all Class 1 and Class 2 races will be determined solely by their assigned ratings. The rating band for each class is as follows:

Ratings table

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Summary:

– All races at Class 1 and Class 2 will be open to both Korean-bred and Foreign-bred runners
– Some races at Class 3 and Class 4 will continue to be restricted to Korean-bred runners.
– All races at Class 5 and Class 6 will continue to be restricted to Korean-bred runners.
– Horse ratings may go up or down according to recent past performance. This means that a horse may move down in class as well as up.

On the subject of foreign ownership of racehorses, they will be allowed to buy up to fifteen horses, which is the same as local owners. However, unlike the locals, foreign owners must buy four Korean-bred horses for every foreign-bred horse they wish to import to Korea. This is one reason why it has been a slightly less controversial development than might otherwise have been expected.

Some of the first batch of foreign owners will be able to start purchasing at the 2-year-old sale on Jeju Island in March.

Big Changes As KRA Overhauls Its Racing Calendar

The Korea Racing Authority (KRA) has announced a major shake-up of of the racing calendar for 2015 as it seeks to strengthen the competitiveness of Korean horse racing and further its goal of being promoted to a Part 2 country.

All change in 2015

All change in 2015

The changes – which have been an open-secret for some time but were finally posted on the Authority’s Korean language website on Friday – coincide with the introduction of a new rating system that will see domestic-bred horses run against imported horses with far more regularity than they do now (although the Triple Crown remains restricted to Korean-bred entrants). The new calendar also adds International Open races to the the International Invitational ones which have been held in the past two years.

Here are the major changes:

Triple Crown: While the individual races which make up the Triple Crown remain the same, the final leg will be brought forward from October to July so the three jewels will be as follows:

April 5: KRA Cup Mile (Busan)
May 17: Korean Derby (Seoul)
July 19: Minister’s Cup (Seoul)

The Korean Oaks will also move forward from its previous August date and will be run at Busan on June 21. The Oaks will be the final leg of the “Filly Triple Crown” after the Cup Mile and the Derby.

Queens’ Tour: The three races that made up this series were previously spread over a period of 8 months which meant the line-up for the last leg was often unrecognisable from the first. To remedy this, the Ttukseom Cup at Seoul, has now been put back to June with the two Busan legs, the KNN Cup and South Gyeongsang Governor’s Cup being in September and November respectively.

International: Five races have been designated as open to international runners. The JRA Trophy in May and the aforementioned Ttukseom Cup in June will be international open races while the SBS Asia Challenge Cup will be the centrepiece of a huge weekend at the end of August. The Cup itself will be an international invitational race as it was last year, however, the Singapore Turf Club Trophy and the KRA Cup Classic will be run on the same weekend and wil be designated international open races. Qurantine protocols have already been established with both Japan and Singapore while others are being worked on currently.

Recognised Trial Races: While this blog has talked for years about such and such race being a trial for such and such another race but it’s never been officially that way. Now though, taking March 1 as an example, the Macau Jockey Club Trophy at Busan and the Sports Seoul Cup in the capital will both be official Korean Oaks trials.

More Opportunities For Sprinters: If Korean horses are to eventually compete on the international stage, it is most likely to be at sprint distances and with that in mind, there are more opportunities for them to run for big prizes. Both the Asia Challenge Cup and the Jeju Governor’s Cup will be sprints and both will also have official prep races.

Click here for the full 2015 schedule

Korean Horses Try Hard But Found Wanting In Interaction Cup

There was to be no repeat of Watts Village’s sensational 2013 win for Korea in the latest edition of the Japan/Korea Interaction Cup at Ohi Racecourse in Tokyo on Tuesday night.

Here He Comes and Moon Se Young in the Ohi paddock (Pic: KRA)

Here He Comes and Moon Se Young in the Ohi paddock (Pic: KRA)

Three Korean trained horses made their way to the Japanese capital to take their chances in the 1200M race. However, they were to come up short against a strong line-up of local sprinters, with the race won by the favourite, 6 year-old US-bred Satono Daytona (Tapit).

Here He Comes, ridden by Moon Se Young, came home in 9th, with Parang Juibo in 11th under Kim Ok Sung and Useung Iyagi, who set the early pace under Ikuyasu Kurakane, finishing last of the 13. All horses and riders finished safely and will return to Korea later this week.

Jockey Kim Ok Sung explains what went wrong to the media after Parang Juibo finished 11th (Pic: KRA)

Jockey Kim Ok Sung explains what went wrong to the media after Parang Juibo finished 11th (Pic: KRA)

Regardless of the result, the successful running of the race was another step forward as Korean racing, after decades of isolation, finally starts to establish its presence internationally.

And while it was unquestionably disappointing for Korean racing fans that the best domestic sprinters were not put forward for the trip, especially after the unexpected win last year, sometimes it is the taking part that counts.

With this bilateral race with Japan set to continue, and the successful hosting of the Asia Challenge Cup earlier this year, “Interaction” is finally happening.

Gangnam Camp Runs Second At Gulfstream

Korean-bred colt Gangnam Camp sprang a surprise on the Gulfstream Park dirt on Saturday, grabbing second place in a 6-furlong Maiden Claimer.

Gangnam Camp before his trip to the US (KRA)

Gangnam Camp before his trip to the US (KRA)

His previous 4 starts had all been underwhelming but, under jockey Arny Fernandez, Gangnam Camp – who was the longest shot on the board – closed strongly to get within a length of winner Lucky Valor at the line.

Gangnam Camp (Forest Camp) is one of three Korean bred horses who have been in the United States since February last year.

They were due to be shipped back to Korea this month to be resold but after Saturday’s performance, there is a possibility it may be put back a month to give Gangnam Camp another crack at recording a win.

It’s the best run so far from any of the three. Better Than You (Ft.Stockton) is 0 for 3 while Seoul Bullet (Peace Rules) has one 3rd place finish from his 4 starts to date and managed to get claimed along the way.

Here’s the Equibase Chart of the race.

Korean Classic Winners Speedy First & Major King In USA For 2014 Campaign

Korean Derby and Oaks winner Speedy First and Minister’s Cup winner Major King are in the United States where they will be trained and raced for at least the first part of the year.

Stateside: Korean Derby and Oaks winner Speedy First

Stateside: Korean Derby and Oaks winner Speedy First

The pair, who between them won 3 of the 4 Korean Classic races in 2013, arrived at JFK Airport last week and are currently in quarantine. They are then expected to transfer to Laurel Park in Maryland to enter training.

Speedy First [Menifee – Speedy Deedy (Victory Gallop)] is a 4-year-old filly who has won 6 of her 10 starts to date. In May last year, she became the 5th filly to win the Korean Derby and added another classic in August with a comfortable win in the Oaks at Busan.

Major King [Pico Central – Still Golden (Gold Fever)] was third in the Derby, but had his revenge in the Minister’s Cup, the final leg of the Triple Crown when he scored a 2-length win. An out of sorts Speedy First finishing last that day.

He might have fluffy ears, but Major King is a Classic winner. he is also in the US

He might have fluffy ears, but Major King is a Classic winner. he is also in the US

Neither finished the 2013 season especially strongly, Speedy First slumping to another defeat in the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup while Major King was an also ran in the President’s Cup, the effects of a long season being blamed for both.

They are by no means the first Korea bred horses to run Stateside. In 2008, a horse called Pick Me Up went to the US and ran – extremely unsuccessfully – at Charles Town, Laurel and Delaware Park. A year later, 2007 Korean Oaks winner Baekpa also went across and ran similarly poorly.

That prompted the Korea Racing Authority to change their approach a little and to send a small group of yearlings and 2-year-olds to Florida each year in the hope of proving their belief that it wasn’t necessarily that Korean-bred horses could compete if trained the same way as their American counterparts.

They got their reward when Feel So Good won a race at Calder in September 2012. Now they’ve decided to try again with established horses.

If all goes to plan, Speedy First and Major King will make their American debuts in April. We’ll be following their progress.

Speedy First winning the 2013 Korean Derby

Major King winning the 2013 Minister’s Cup

Mister Park Statue Set For Busan Unveiling

A statue honouring the late Mister Park will be officially unveiled during racing at Busan Race Park this coming Sunday.

The Mister Park statue will have its official unveiling this weekend

The Mister Park statue will have its official unveiling this weekend

Mister Park (Ecton Park) won the Grand Prix Stakes in 2010 and broke the Korean record for most consecutive victories before suffering a fatal injury in a race at Busan on June 23, 2012.

Mister Park with trainer Kim Young Kwan, jockey Yoo Hyun Myung and owner Kwak Jong Soo after winning the 2010 Grand Prix

Mister Park with trainer Kim Young Kwan, jockey Yoo Hyun Myung and owner Kwak Jong Soo after winning the 2010 Grand Prix

The life-size statue took five months to complete and Mister Park’s owner Kwak Jong Soo will attend to officially dedicate it to his horse. A special booklet “I’m Mister Park” has also been produced for the occasion.

Mister Park's final resting place in Busan

Mister Park’s final resting place in Busan

Mister Park, who was 5-years-old when he passed away, ran 22 times, winning on 19 occasions. He was Korean Horse of the Year in 2011. Read more about him here.